Nov 07, 2023

Advocates warn against facility lockdowns amid COVID-19 wave

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According to the British Medical Journal, a new COVID variant called Pirola has evolved from the Omicron subvariant BA.2. [Source: Shutterstock]

As a new wave and variant of COVID-19 is detected in the country, advocates for older people have warned providers against hastily putting their aged care facilities under lockdown as the well-being of residents could be jeopardised.

Aged Rights Advocacy Service Chief Executive Carolanne Barkla said she was “concerned” about any lockdowns happening at aged care facilities as they would impact residents’ quality of life.

“ARAS would be concerned to see a return to locking down homes and not allowing safe visitation, which negatively impacts older people,” she told NewsCorp.

Ms Barkla advised visitors to stay away from facilities if they are unwell and to think about other ways to stay in contact with loved ones such as telephone or FaceTime. An emergency leave type is also available until December 31, 2023, for permanent aged care residents which allows them to stay with friends or family during COVID-19.

An outbreak of COVID-19 occurs when 2 or more residents test positive to COVID-19 within a 72-hour period. This requires residential aged care homes to activate their outbreak management plan.

A new COVID wave has been documented in the latest South Australian health data, which reported 1,691 new COVID cases last week – a 55% increase from the previous week which was 1,069 cases. 

 SA’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier recently told a parliamentary committee into the state’s COVID-19 management that aged care organisations needed to adapt to the new age of the virus, which meant developing personalised policies and procedures.

She said COVID still has an impact on society and individuals but the rise in cases was not being driven by the recently detected Pirola variant.

“We are in quite a different place to where we were last year… We are clearly in a new wave at the moment, so we’re at the beginning of that. I can’t tell you how high it will be but being a wave, things go up and they‘ll go back down again,” said Professor Spurrier.

“We have good oral antivirals as well for people who are more vulnerable, particularly older people and the system to get those out to people including to aged care and to Aboriginal community controlled health services.”

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